There’s only one name you might not know in this week’s Another Country. You’ll be familiar with the artists we are playing… Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Brandy Clark, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and…Lady Gaga! You’ll recognise the songs too. From Tim’s Humble and Kind, a country #1 from 2016 to last year’s anthem to faith in community, The Highwomen‘s ‘Crowded Table’ you’ll know so many songs on this week’s show from the opening bars.
The only name with which you may be less familiar is the writer of every song you will hear: Lori McKenna. Over the course of the last dozen or so years we’ve played the songs Lori has written for other artists. In recent years too, we’ve played the songs she has written for her own career. Interestingly it’s her own life as a solo artist which kicked off her songwriting career. Hailing from the same part of the world, Mary Gauthier who was based in Boston in the early part of her career told the Nashville people about Lori McKenna and encouraged her to come down to Music City to consider something which she admits she then found a difficult concept: co-writing. To say she warmed to this is a vast understatement. Since she first made the trip her co-writing credits are on songs cut by the list of artists I mentioned at the top of the blog as well as so many more. Her regular gig is the three-way session writes she conducts with her Love Junky friends, Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey. Though she now collaborates with a wide range of other Nashville writers, she is however almost unique as a successful country songwriter who has never lived in the city.
Lori is a native of Stoughton, Massachusetts and it was there she spoke with me from her home studio a couple of weeks ago. We talked about her family who still live nearby and the recurring theme in her own work: the loss of her mother at the age of her seven. It’s a theme which comes up again in a beautiful song on her new album, The Balladeer, dedicated to her elder sister, Marie. Her own family come up again and again in her own work and as someone who wrote songs for her young children it’s a practice she’s continued even as they have grown and flown the nest. No parent couldn’t be moved by ‘When You’re My Age,‘ and no one who has experienced their own parent’s ageing process couldn’t be unaffected by ‘People Get Old’ from 2018’s The Tree.
On this Tuesday’s AC we’ll celebrate the songs Lori McKenna has written for other people and her own eleven album solo career which is completed by 2020’s The Balladeer. It’s going to be a glorious two hour celebration of song which starts this Tuesday evening at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland. Join me if you can.